Even though I've asked a similar question regarding phonetics, here's my second go at it.

I've listened to a few audio samples, consisting of textbook dialogues spoken aloud, which allowed me to compare written and spoken languages side-by-side.

However, those samples still left me with a few doubts. It seems that the same word may be pronounced slightly differently, from person to person.

  1. It's still very hard for me to tell apart from . Sometimes they appear to be pronounced just the same. But in the word , seems to be a slightly elongated version of , whereas the syllable sounds like [çi] rather than [∫i]. Can these letters be summed up this way?
  2. Is it just me, or may sometimes be heard as [ts]? That's the sound I perceived in 처음.
  3. Even when two consecutive vowels show up in two separate phonetic blocks, are they chained together, as if a diphthong? I heard 내일 as [nεjl] rather than [nε-il], but it may be just me.
  4. If, at any given occasion, I doubt how to pronounce correctly (either [k] or [g]), is it OK to utter it as an ambiguous sound in-between both possible pronunciations?
  5. Is a "silent" letter most times? I noticed that it affects the pronunciation of neighbouring letters , , ; but, if right after or , it seems not to have any effect, hence 은행 is uttered as [ ønε̃ ], and 일하다 as [i-ra-da]. Between two vowels, it appears to be uttered as a very subtle [h].

Sorry if these are too many questions at once.

  • What's your native tongue? Knowing that might let us help you better. Commented Dec 30, 2022 at 3:36
  • My native language is Portuguese. In which every sound is more clear-cut than in English.
    – swrutra
    Commented Dec 31, 2022 at 20:34
  • Then do you understand Spanish? "S" pronounced in Spain is ㅅ. "S" pronounced in English is ㅆ. Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 4:01
  • Thank you so much. That simple tip helped me a lot.
    – swrutra
    Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


Here's some advice on tackling the difficulties you mentioned.

  • ㅆ and ㅅ
  • ㅆ: like English s sound. It sounds clear and forceful.

  • ㅅ: Soft s. It becomes somewhat like [∫] if the vowel has an [i] or [j] component.

Koreans perceive an [i] component in English sh sound even when the subsequent vowel doesn't have it. So "shout" might be exaggerated as shi-out to characterize its difference from the s sound. Understanding this aspect might help in mastering the soft ㅅ sound.

To train yourself on the difference, you can practice pronunciating "see out" and "shi-out" (shout with sh part lengthened), for example. Try them as two vowel sounds first and then as a single diphthong vowel. Next, see if you can drop the [i] from the diphthong and say "sout" (i.e [s] + out) and ㅅ-out ([∫] modified like Korean ㅅ followed by "out"). The first one would be 싸웃 and the second 사웃. The key is that [ʃ] sound uses the edges of the tongue made into a flattened shape to create a vertically very narrow but horizontally wide area for the air to pass through creating some friction. You need to reduce this effect and try to sound it in the middle part of the lips and tongue rather than the sides. It is hard but if you figure it out, you solve the problem of ㅈ vs j, and ㅊ vs ch as well. They all share these characteristics.

As for the length of the vowel you mentioned, I don't think it is essential in differentiating ㅅ and ㅆ.

In English, ch [tʃ] is the closest sound to ㅊ, but again, ㅊ lacks the [i]-like component.

Strictly speaking, [ts] is probably a different sound, but it can sometimes sound like ㅊ. For example, in "It's a deal", the part after "It" can sound like 처, but I think it varies too much with the region and the individual to equate them.

  • connected vowels and diphthong

Two connected vowels will sound like a diphthong if spoken fast. So 내일 can either sound like [nε-il] with two distinct vowels, [nεil] like a single diphthong, or even a monophthong [nεl] (낼). 처음 is the same and often reduces to 첨 in fast speech. This is probably a universal thing since you can't always enunciate every syllable accurately when you speak fast.

ㄱ can take on the sound of a dull, weakened English k, an English g, or anything in between, so you can pronounce it like a g or k variant as you said, except that you shouldn't make it like a fully distinct k sound because that is more like a ㅋ than ㄱ (ㅋ is largely equivalent to k).

  1. ㅎ is never muted when it's at the beginning of a word (e.g. 하늘 is never pronounced like 아늘), because we enunciate the beginning syllable more clearly.
  2. When it comes before or after ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, or ㅈ, it aspirates the consonant to ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ or ㅊ respectively. E.g 하얗다 -> [하야타], 박히다 -> [바키다].
  3. The bottom ㅎ (ㅎ 받침) is muted before a syllable starting with ㅇ (i.e. a vowel sound), as in 좋아 [조아] in which ㅎ is never pronounced even at a slow speed.
  4. ㅎ is lightened to an indistinct sound between ㅇ and ㅎ in most other cases. There are exceptions but no need to worry about them.
  • Thank you so much for your detailed explanations. Now I know more than before, and I could confirm some of my "suspicions".
    – swrutra
    Commented Jan 1, 2023 at 14:22

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.